Home Affairs minister faces arrest

President Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF hardliners are pushing for the arrest of Home Affairs co-Minister Theresa Makone, alleging she interfered with the judiciary by questioning the fraudulent grabbing of farms by officials using fake offer letters.

Makone is a top aide of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.

The fake offer letters are still in circulation and being used to evict the few remaining white farmers and foreigners who own farms in Zimbabwe.

After the discovery of the fake offer letters, Makone raised the issue with the attorney-general, Johannes Tomana, in a letter dated October 20, which was copied to Justice and Legal Affairs Minister Patrick Chinamasa and Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku.

Documents seen by the Sunday Times show that on November 9 Patrick Chinamasa, a close confidante of Mugabe, wrote a letter to Makone, threatening her with arrest for copying her letter to the chief justice, saying it was a criminal offence.

Chinamasa said: "I feel compelled to draw your attention to the fact that writing or copying communication to the chief justice, raising issues which have been argued before the supreme court and over which judgement is pending, constitutes a serious contempt of court.

"Contempt of court is a criminal offence and renders you liable to arrest and prosecution.

"The worst thing in your communication was regurgitating arguments almost verbatim submitted to the supreme court by the legal counsel representing white farmers and resubmitting, as it were, these same arguments to the supreme court.

"I write to ask that you desist from sending communications to members of the judiciary. Such behaviour is unethical and unacceptable and constitutes a direct interference with the work of the judiciary."

Makone took issue with the way Zanu-PF officials and those connected to the ruling elite of Mugabe’s party were moving from farm to farm using fake offer letters.

Makone did not get a response from the attorney-general, but the letter was leaked to the state media, which attacked the Movement for Democratic Change minister, accusing her of siding with white farmers and of trying to influence the judiciary.

Zanu-PF is said to have been angered by Makone’s letter, and said she was crusading to reverse land grabs.

Makone defended herself, saying she wrote to Tomana as a government lawyer seeking clarification on the law pertaining to land allocation.

In her letter to Tomana, Makone said her ministry had been receiving complaints from members of the public as well as foreign missions about general lawlessness in the conduct of land distribution.

In her letter, she said: "The common complaint is that some individuals, often accompanied by rowdy thugs, have besieged farms armed with offer letters and effected unlawful eviction of farmers.

"In many instances these evictions are carried out despite high court orders specifically barring such evictions.

"Failure to follow the correct procedure for land allocation has opened up avenues for corruption. The claim is that certain government employees from the Ministry of Lands have been the source of these offer letters. There is therefore a need for the law pertaining to land allocation to be clarified and a clear message to be sent from within the government.

"I now implore you, as the chief law officer of government, to assist us at the Ministry of Home Affairs to ensure that the law is applied accordingly. If I have overlooked any part of the law, I humbly stand to be corrected by yourself as our lawyer. I thought that it might be prudent to clear my understanding before engaging the executive," wrote Makone.

The minister also attached a copy of a fake letter which was used by a Charles Nyachowe, who is related to Mugabe and Local Government, Rural and Urban Development Minister Ignatius Chombo.

According to Makone’s letter, Nyachowe has occupied a farm after using a fake offer letter, having forcibly evicted an 82-year-old woman.

Mugabe’s bloody land grabs, which started at the beginning of the decade, have been characterised by chaos, with most land being allocated to Zanu-PF officials and their relatives at the expense of genuinely landless people of Zimbabwe.